Jul 31, 2009

do you edit?

Last night my husband and I were having a discussion about the integrity and credibility of blogs, which turned into a discussion on editing. Hubby told me something I'd never considered before: if you edit your blog post after it's been published, some readers consider that a serious breach of etiquette. Well, I'm guilty. Many, many times I have noticed when glancing back over my own blog, that some little typo got missed, or even an awkward sentence, and I'll go back and change it. Hubby says the proper way to do this (if you do it at all) is strikethrough your error, and write the correction next to it. I didn't know. Do you ever edit your posts after hitting "publish"? Do you use strikethroughs, or just make the correction quietly? Do you feel it mars a blog's integrity if they tidy up words tardily? I know I'm going to be far more careful in my own proofreading now, and do my best to avoid editing after I publish. I usually spend less than an hour preparing a post, and sometimes rush through it if the kid is tugging on my arm, and I've already got in mind what I want to say- but then looking back later find it's not as clean or precise as I'd like... Perhaps I just need to find more quiet times of day to do my blogging in. Here's hoping I don't loose any readers for making this confession...

Jul 29, 2009


the Secret Life
by Valmik Thapar

This excellent book about tigers in India follows the lives of three tigresses and their families, from the birth of the cubs through all stages of their development until they are fully grown and independent. Tigers: the Secret Life is full of fascinating and detailed information about tiger habitat, their hunting methods, impact on other wildlife, interactions with local villagers, and especially the daily habits and intimate social life of the great striped cats. In the course of his studies, Thapar discovered not only new info on how tigresses teach their young, but that male tigers can co-exist peacefully with the cubs and share in family duties. The book is written in an easy, storytelling style that makes it a pleasure to read, and the photographs are absolutely stunning. I am fairly certain that my copy of Tigers: A Secret Life is the same book as The Secret Life of Tigers, which is the more current edition. I think I prefer my older book, though, as listing details tell me that the newer edition has twenty photographs illustrating its pages, whereas my copy has photos on nearly every page, and they are so beautiful I wouldn't want to make do with less!

Rating: 4/5               160 pages, 1989

More opinions at:
Scholars Without Boarders
anyone else?

Jul 28, 2009

bookmarks giveaway!

The winner of the horse bookmark is Lisette! Send your address to jeanenevarez AT gmail DOT com and I'll mail it to you today.
win two free mountain lion, cougar bookmark
Next up is this pair of cougar bookmarks. Double sided, edged with gold and silver ribbon. If you'd like to enter to win, just leave a comment before tuesday, 8/4.

Jul 27, 2009

Dragon's Heart

by Jane Yolen

In this fourth volume of Jane Yolen's Pit Dragon Series, Jakkin and Akki have returned from the mountains to find many things changed. During their absence, the bondage system was annulled worldwide, and an embargo was placed on their planet, isolating it from offworld supplies. While Jakkin finds himself caught up in confusion at the dragon nursery, seeing new faces among familiar ones, finding new customs among old, Akki makes her way back to the city. She hopes to pursue her studies in medicine, but against her will gets caught up in politics and rebel violence again. Through all this, the pair agonize over how to keep their new knowledge of dragon powers a secret, but in the end it just might be those draconic abilities that can save them- if they dare risk the exposure...

I was pretty disappointed in Dragon's Heart. As a teen I loved Yolen's dragon books, as an adult it seems I don't. My first problem was that it felt like the first eighty pages or so were constantly re-hashing what took place in the prior three books. And then I had trouble getting involved in the story. It felt like many parts of the plot closely echoed parts of the other books; like I wasn't reading anything new. Some parts felt really contrived, others just dull. There was too much about politics, not enough about the dragons. It finally got interesting on about p. 260, but then I found the ending disappointing. My opinion of the first three books in this series is so colored by nostalgia, I can't really tell if I'm just a more critical reader now as an adult, or have lost my appreciation for J fiction, or if it just isn't as well-written. If someone's reading this series for the first time, I'll be glad to hear what you think.

(I guess I feel so bad about it because this is the first time in years I actually went out and bought a brand-spanking-new book, I was so anxious to read it. My public library didn't have it, and of course it was too new to be up on any of the swap sites. So I went and bought it- and then didn't like it- and thought of all the used books those $16 could have got me instead... although there was something delicious about the fresh fresh smell of the ink and paper, and being the first person to open its covers...)

Rating: 2/5                      391 pages, 2009

More opinions at:
Book Obsession
The Writer's Notebook
Deep Thoughts

Jul 24, 2009

Random Reading Challenge

Caribousmom has the coolest ever reading challenge going on right now- the Random Reading Challenge! I'm going all-out and try to read twelve books (Level III) between now and July 2010, all pulled at random from my stacks. It really sounds like a lot of fun!

DogEar Reading Challenge!

Okay, maybe this is a bit crazy, but last night I was talking with my husband about all the challenges I've been joining, and he suggested I host one of my own! So I decided to do just that. Announcing the first ever Dogear Reading Challenge!
  • For this challenge, read five books, one for each of the following categories:

    1. A book featuring an animal
    2. An adult fantasy book
    3. A YA or juvenile fiction book
    4. A non-fiction book on an obscure topic (or something you don't usually read about)
    5. A book about plants, gardening, or food

  • Sign up below with Mr. Linky, if you like.
  • Post your list of books online somewhere (here in the comments is fine, if you don't have a blog).
  • Preferably, read the books just for this challenge. But if you want to cross-over, that's fine.
  • If you find you can't finish a book on your list, feel free to pick a new one
  • The challenge starts 8/1/09 and ends 12/31/09.
  • At the end, everyone who's completed will be entered into a drawing for a prize! The prize consists of your choice of three items: my bookmarks, any book off my swap list (I'm on Paperback Swap and Book Mooch, and have a few dozen books waiting to be listed on them, too) or Book Mooch points. Any combination: so you can have three bookmarks, or two books and a bookmark, or two Mooch points and a book, etc.
(I've never hosted a challenge before; if there's something else I need to address, please help out and let me know!)

The books I am planning to read for the Dogear Reading Challenge are:

The Wrong Dog by Carol Lea Benjamin
The Summer Country by James Heltey
The Voyages of Doctor Dolittle by Hugh Lofting
West with the Night by Beryl Markham
In a Green Shade by Allen Lacy

So... who wants to join me?

Jul 23, 2009

Meme: Preferences

quick questions and answers, from Booking Through Thursday
  • Reading something frivolous? Or something serious? Depends on my mood
  • Paperbacks? Or hardcovers? No preference
  • Fiction? Or Nonfiction? A good mix of both
  • Poetry? Or Prose? Prose
  • Biographies? Or Autobiographies? no preference
  • History? Or Historical Fiction? Historical fiction
  • Series? Or Stand-alones? I like both
  • Classics? Or best-sellers? Something in between
  • Lurid, fruity prose? Or straight-forward, basic prose? Again, in-between
  • Plots? Or Stream-of-Consciousness? Plots
  • Long books? Or Short? Medium
  • Illustrated? Or Non-illustrated? Non. I like to think up my own images
  • Borrowed? Or Owned? Library! Owned books are for keeps
  • New? Or Used? Used suits me just fine.
Hm, I think I was really undecided on a lot of those. O well, it was fun. How about you? Any preferences?

Jul 22, 2009

The Animal Wife

by Elizabeth Marshall Thomas

I have a hard time thinking what to say about The Animal Wife. It is a companion novel to Reindeer Moon, telling about the same group of prehistoric people, also a coming-of-age story, but about a young man this time. Kori, the main character, sets off on a journey to live with his father's people after having spent his childhood with his mother. He is eager to prove himself a man, and earn his place. He is just beginning to find his place among the grown men when he makes a brash move and takes captive a woman from an unknown tribe. His rash action condemns his new "wife" to live among total strangers- but also makes Kori something of an outcast himself, and places his own family group in danger...

It was hard for me to like Kori. He gave little consideration to what his captive wife might be feeling, and was mostly concerned with hunting, his status among the men, and his enjoyment of women. Women in this primitive society were pretty much regarded as possessions, without will or rights of their own. I suppose it might well have been like that so many thousands of years ago, but still it made me feel awful how callously some of them were treated in the story. I did like reading about how closely tied the people were to the land, how their lives depended upon the weather, change of seasons, movements of animals. Their constant interactions with wildlife. But it wasn't nearly as magical as Reindeer Moon, and at the end of the book I was left thinking: what a desolate story. In the epilogue the author explained how her story was based on ancient Asian legends of an animal wife- think fox, in Japanese literature- and for a moment I had to think why, because unlike Reindeer Moon where people died and their spirits took different animal forms, in this story the woman never became an animal (although I expected her to!) No, she was seen as an animal because her captors in ignorance treated her as one, they assumed she was stupid because she could not speak their language or understand their customs. It was really very sad. I was pleased at first to see the reappearance of the tamed-wolf theme, but it did not end well even for the poor wolf. Everyone was left with less in the end. And yet I could not put the book down... Elizabeth Marshall Thomas is a darn good storyteller.

Rating: 3/5 ........ 289 pages, 1990

more opinions:
Snips and Snails and Puppy Dog Tales

wondrous words and more

All my words this week came from reading Irving Stone's account of Darwin's travels aboard the Beagle, which I am beginning to find tiresome. I've gotten through almost 300 pages of The Origin and find myself putting down the book, reading another one entire, and then wondering if I want to come back to it...

Inveterate- "... both the Darwin and Wedgewood families had good libraries and were inveterate readers, but for enjoyment rather than education."
Definition: habitual, or well-established

Litmus- "... he has a brain in that large skull of his, not only for sopping up knowledge like litmus paper, but for speculative theory."
Definition: a paper that turns red in acidic solutions and blue in alkaline; derived from lichens

Redoubtable- "Even our redoubtable Wickham gets seasick in smaller boats."
Definition: worthy of resepect or honor; inspiring awe or fear

Desideratum- "Size is not the ultimate desideratum."
Definition: something considered very neccessary

Davit- "Twenty-five-foot whaleboats hung from the Beagle's quarter davits..."
Definition: a small crane that suspends over the side of a ship for hoisting objects

Holystone- "It was the midshipmen who caught the blast of his temper if a single spot of the deck had not been holystoned to a high gloss..."
Definition: a soft sandstone used to scour the deck of a ship

Argot- "He enjoyed listening to the argot of the sailors, gradually coming to understand the meaning of such terms as yar, swabber, wind-bound in a port..."
Definition: slang or jargon used by a particular group of people

Factotum- "The party included a young friend of the Scotsman named Gosling, a Brazilian guide from the interior; a black boy to serve as general factotum."
Definition: a person employed to do all kinds of work, mainly as an assistant

for more wondrous words, visit Bermudaonion's Weblog

On another note, I've been rather neglectful of responding to comments and such because we have a houseguest this week (old friend of my husband's) and being hostess diverts my time and attention away from some of my favorite things (reading and blogging). A few days ago Jules so kindly gave me the Bookworms Award for Bookfriends. I just love the button for this award, which is for those book bloggers we truly appreciate. I followed the trail of this award back to another book blog new to me, Miscellaneous Mumblings.

I'd like to pass this award on to some of the book blogs I've more recently discovered. I don't know them very well yet, but I do know they share a love of books with me, and all the rest of you! This goes to: Read Quoi?, YA Fabulous, Under the Dresser, You GOTTA Read This, and Words by Annie.

Jul 21, 2009

bookmarks giveaway!

I just drew a name from the hat. The winner of the camel bookmark is Esperanza! Lucky winner, send your address to jeanenevarez AT gmail DOT com and I'll mail it out to you promptly.
win a free horse bookmark
Next up is a bookmark of a horse in a foggy sunrise, edged with silver ribbon. It has a picture on the back and the front. If you'd like to win this, just leave a comment here by next tuesday, 7/28. Happy reading!

Jul 20, 2009

Psycho Kitty?

Understanding Your Cat's Crazy Behavior
by Pam Johnson-Bennett

This breezy book written by a feline behavior consultant helps cat owners understand and deal with undesirable behaviors. Each chapter includes several accounts of problems owners have sought her help for, the advice she gave, and how the problem was finally solved. There are the familiar litter-box and scratching issues (some with surprising causes and resolutions), overly aggressive and anxious cats. Then there's a chapter called "Behaviors They Never Warned You About" which gets a bit stranger. A cat so completely obsessed with water he supervises dish washing, hand washing, drinks being poured, toilet usage, and even jumps in the shower. Cats that chew and suck on clothing, riddling sweaters and socks with holes. A cat who mourns the death of the family dog. A cat who suffers from panic attacks, brought on by being petted. And a touching story about a stray cat who befriended a lonely old man with cancer. Psycho Kitty? is an easy read, informative, and useful to any pet owner seeking to understand some of their cat's odd behavior.

Rating: 3/5                     160 pages, 1998

Jul 19, 2009

What An Animal II

I'm going to participate in the What An Animal II reading challenge, hosted by Kristi at Passion for the Page. You can hop on over to her challenge post to read the full rules, but in short the goal is to read six books before Feb 2010. The books must all have: an animal in the title, an animal as a main character, an animal that plays a major role, or an animal depicted on the cover. Fiction or Non-. I have tons of animal books on my shelves, so I picked out some of the older ones that have been getting passed over for a while. Here's my beginning list:

The Flight of the Snow Goose by Des and Jen Bartlett
A Ring of Endless Light by Madeline L'Engle
Running After Antelope by Scott Carrier
Rabbit Hill by Robert Lawson
The Animal Wife by Elizabeth Marshall Thomas
An Episode of Sparrows by Rumer Godden
The Horse's Mouth by Joyce Cary
Handbook to the Orders and Families of Living Mammals by Lawlor
A Dog's Life by Ann Martin
Hurry Home Candy by Rumer Godden
Beasts of Eden by David Rains Wallace
Love, War and Circuses by Eric Scigliano
The Dolphin Doctor by Sam Ridgway
Pigeons by Andrew Blechman
The Old Country by Mordicai Gerstein
Wolf Totem by Jiang Rong

That's more than six because I doubt I'll complete them all, some (maybe half) will get abandoned along the way.

Jul 18, 2009

The Bloody Chamber

and Other Stories
by Angela Carter

I can't recall what made me pick up this book, those four years ago. It must have been on some reading list I had. The Bloody Chamber is a book of ten short stories which are dark, macabre spin-offs of fairy tales. There are twists on puss n' boots, beauty and the beast, red riding hood; there are vampires and werewolves stalking among the familiar figures. In one version, Red Riding Hood's grandmother is a werewolf, in another Beauty is the one who turns into a beast. I like Carter's writing style, I liked the very different turns these tales took and the strong female characters, but the sensuality and bloodiness was a bit too much for me. Some of the stories really made my skin crawl. They vary in length, from just a few pages to a solid half the entire book, each one just as potent as the last. Personally, it's not a book I can say I enjoyed, but if you like gothic fiction, or fairy tales turned horror stories, I'm sure you'd appreciate it more than I did.

Rating: 3/5                 128 pages, 1990

More opinions at:
A Striped Armchair
le writer's block
anyone else?

Jul 17, 2009

The Coachman Rat

by David Henry Wilson

What happens to Cinderella, after the magic of the ball has worn off? For that matter, what about the minor characters pulled unwillingly into the magic of that night? The Coachman Rat tells the story of the rat who was turned into a coachman, and how that one night changed his life forever. The experience of being a man is one full of astonishment and confusion for him at first, then wonderment and finally dismay when he finds himself a rat once more, still thinking human thoughts and unable to communicate with his fellow rats anymore. So this rat (named Robert) searches for the fairy godmother ("woman of light") to change him back into a human again, and along the way we see how nothing has turned out "happily every after." The princess and her prince are not at all charming, and the world they live in isn't either. There are accusations of witchcraft, plagues and mob killings, and Robert himself becomes so embittered against man he rouses up a whole army of rats to wreak vengeance- bringing some of the pied piper legend into the story. Not your everyday fairytale retelling, lots of unpleasant things happen in this book, but the gritty dark reality is what makes this a good story. That and how well the anguished emotions of Robert the rat-turned-man are portrayed.

Rating: 3/5                     171 pages, 1990

More opinions at:
Jenny's Books

Jul 16, 2009

Non-Fiction Five wrapup

I've completed my first reading challenge, Trish's Non-Fiction Five! The books I read were:

The Other End of the Leash by Patricia McConnell
The Ra Expeditions by Thor Heyerdahl
It's Not About the Bike by Lance Armstrong
Ice Bound by Jerri Nielsen
Seaworthy by T.R. Pearson
Splendid Solution by Jeffrey Kluger

I read one extra. Participating in a reading challenge was a new thing for me. It really helped motivate me to read some of the books on my shelf that I'd been putting off. I learned a lot about living at the South Pole, how polio vaccines were made, what it's like to sail rafts across the ocean, cancer patients and the sport of cycling. Non-fiction can get a bit wearying though, so I'm good and ready to get back to some fiction again soon.

Jul 15, 2009

Splendid Solution

Jonas Salk and the Conquest of Polio
by Jeffrey Kluger

I never expected a scientific book about medical breakthroughs to be so compelling, even suspenseful, but Splendid Solution is. Then again, I never really realized how terrifying the polio epidemics were until I read Kluger's book. The numbers of children who fell ill, became paralyzed or died from polio between 1916 and 1952 is staggering, and it rose every year. Jonas Salk, a scientist who developed the first effective flu vaccine, made it his life's work to create a polio vaccine and halt the spread of this devastating disease. This book covers ever aspect of the fight against polio- Salk's background, training, research and family life. The rivalry between scientists, involvement of the media, the responses of parents, quack doctors, the March of Dimes, Roosevelt, etc. Near the end, the entanglements of politics and scientific disagreements was slowing me down, but I was anxious enough to read the resolutions that I kept going. The descriptions of how vaccines are actually made, and the problems of testing their safety and manufacturing them in mass quantities, were most interesting.

~~ possible spoilers follow, highlight to white text to read ~~
Other things surprised me- like the fact that after going through monkey trials, the first tests of vaccines were done on mentally handicapped children (who, it was felt, would have no other useful contribution to society) and crippled children who had already been struck by polio. This when people were terrified that the vaccine could cause adverse reactions, severe allergies, or give them polio. Another thing that surprised me was to learn of the huge rift between scientists over the types of vaccines being developed. Salk strove to create the safest vaccine, with polio virus that had been killed. Others argued that a vaccine made from live, disabled virus was more effective, creating a stronger response in the body's immune system. When Salk's vaccine proved successful, it was used for seven years before the other camp pushed their live vaccine enough to get it used instead. After the epidemics were over, wild polio virus kept coming around, still afflicting thousands of people- and the strains of wild virus could be traced back to the live vaccines (according to what I've read). I wonder if only Salk's vaccine had been used, would polio be totally eradicated today? I really expected this book to be drier reading, but it's quite fluid and, apart from the politicking which bored me, very interesting. If you're curious at all about polio, or what scientists go through to make vaccines, I recommend it.

This is the last book I read for the Non-Fiction Five challenge.

Rating: 3/5 373 pages, 2004

More opinions at:
The Voracious Reader
anyone else?

wondrous words

New words I came across in the past week, from Seaworthy:

Parsimonious- "He could be, on occasion, so strict in its practice and parsimonious with air that he would rhythmically breathe himself into a faint."
Definition: excessively frugal

Bauxite- "She.... was the sort of creature who could readily construe a voyage on a bauxite freighter to obscure malarial ports in the West Indies a vacation."
Definition: a claylike substance that is the main source of aluminum

Enervating- "Perhaps the enervating climate had something to do with it."
Definition: weakening, depriving of strength (medically, to remove nerves)

Consomme- "Willis, quite beyond dissected parrots and primate consomme, was saltogether doomed."
Definition: a clear soup or rich broth

Eructation- "Though he was slow to regain his stamina and feared a relapse with every twinge and eructation, Willis's ulcer failed to plague him further..."
Definition: belching

Trimaran- "Willis decided that his new raft would be a trimaran constructed of three steel pontoons..."
Definition: a small, fast sailboat with three parallel hulls

and from Splendid Solution:

Tony- "The blocks around the university, however, turned out to be far too tony for the $2,100 per year a researcher like Salk would be making..."
Definition: markedly elegant or exclusive

Cachet- "Corporate and political leaders like Edsel Ford and Averell Harriman joined the foundation board to lend it clout and cachet."
Definition: a mark of distinction or authenticity

Protean- "The virus that caused the disease was an especially protean one, mutating from year to year and place to place."
Definition: able to constantly change shape or form, widely variable

Billet- "But there were a lot of other investigators seeking the glamorous Berkeley billet as well..."
Definition: a position of employment (more commonly, lodging for troops)

Interregnum- "He.... studied viruses at Rockfeller University during the interregnum between hostilities..."
Definition: a gap in continuity, especially between a person of power's reign of office and their successor

Adjuvant- "... he wanted to study new ways to inactivate the virus so it could be used in a vaccine, and new ways to fortify that vaccine with adjuvants."
Definition: a substance added to a drug to increase its effectiveness

Miscegnation- "Nothing short of an attempt at intravenous miscegnation."
Definition: the "mixing" of different ethnic groups or races

for more wondrous words, visit this meme's host, Bermudaonion.

Jul 14, 2009

blog award

It was so nice to be scanning through my google reader tonight and discover that TheBlackSheep gave me the Kreativ Blogger award. I was having a bad day after an incident with my cat at the vet's, and this really cheered me up. Thank you, BlackSheep! I like to follow links backwards as far as I can and see all the other blogs that an award has passed through, as I always find tons of new blogs I never knew of before. This time some bloggers I visited had received the award from more than one person, so I traced it back to two different blogs (both new to me): Pirate Penguin Reads and Chica Reader.

Once you receive this award you are to list seven of your favorite things and then nominate seven other blogs. I'm not terribly creative with this; my seven things echo many others... They are (in no particular order): chocolate, books, my cats, gardening, my family, walks on the beach, steaming hot baths. For this award, I'd like to nominate:

Both Eyes Book Blog
Ex Libris
Jenny's Books
Shelf Life
Stephanie's Written Word
Jules' Book Reviews
This Delicious Solitude

I may not raise my voice too often on other blogs, but I read along and appreciate the effort put into it, and the share of a love of reading. Pass the love along!

bookmark giveaway!

The winner of the rooster bookmark is Sam, of Literary Wombat! If you haven't visited the Wombat blog yet, you should. Sam writes about lots of YA fiction, right now going through the Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys series. Sam, send me your address and I'll mail you a rooster!

Next giveaway is for this bookmarks of two camels, a mama and her baby. Leave a comment here for an entry, winner will be drawn next tuesday 7/21.

Jul 13, 2009

Don't Shoot the Dog!

The New Art of Teaching and Training
by Karen Pryor

This is not really a dog-training book. It's about training any other living being in your ken to do what you want, just by being nice to them about it (to put it in a nutshell). I was curious when I saw it, because I'd read Pryor's book about her work training dolphins, Lads Before the Wind (more on that another day). Don't Shoot the Dog! explains exactly what's behind her methods of positive reinforcement. Whether you're trying to train your dog, teach the cat to stay off the counter, encourage a child to have good behavior, get your husband to be less grumpy etc, Pryor has a method laid out that involves mainly praising the behavior you like, and ignoring the behavior you want to get rid of. (It reminded me a lot of another book I read years ago about being proactive -which I'm sure you've heard of -The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People). Anyway, when it comes to training animals, her methods sound good to me- but when it comes to applying it to other people, I felt it would be a little bit- manipulative? and take a whole lot of patience to carry out. The book itself is easy to read, well-organized, and even amusing in parts. It's full of little examples and suggestions. I'm trying to put some of it into practice (especially with my four-year-old) without the feeling-like-I'm-being-manipulative part.

Rating: 3/5                   187 pages, 1984

More opinions at:
Gutendog Press

Jul 12, 2009

Living to Tell the Tale

by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

I first read One Hundred Years of Solitude, by Marquez, in a high school literature class. It was a serious struggle. Most kids I knew hated the book. I found it nearly incomprehensible. I couldn't keep track of the myriad characters (often with duplicate names) but the fantastical, dreamlike events intrigued me. I had a similar experience with this book. Living to Tell the Tale is Marquez' memoir of his childhood, and reading it you realize just how much his novels draw on incidents and people he knew in real life. Of course, I only recognized things I'd come across in Hundred Years of Solitude, but I know there are echoes of Love in the Time of Cholera and other works here. It was kind of thrilling to recognize bits and pieces, even though it's been at least ten years since I read the novel, and I don't remember it very clearly. But even so, Living to Tell the Tale could not keep my interest. It jumps back and forth in time (always something I find distracting) not only between Marquez' adult life and his childhood, but also in telling about his parents' love story, his grandparents' lives, etc. Myriad relatives, friends, fellow villagers, etc fill the pages with curious events and wonderful descriptions, but all in a puzzling whirl. I tried to let go of my desire to hold onto a thread, or pay attention to who all the people were, and just bounce along the top of the words, taking in each moment that was presented to me- but it all became a muddle too soon and I couldn't follow any longer. Maybe my attention is just lax, maybe I'm just not into complex books anymore- after all, I doubt I would have ever initially made it through One Hundred Years of Solitude without a teacher's guidance. So while I stopped reading this memoir on page 80, I have to say it's just my lack of appreciation. It feels like a fantastic book. If you're a fan of Marquez, if you've loved any one of his novels, I would urge you to read this one. You will likely find a treasure and delight, where I just encountered headaches.

Abandoned                     533 pages, 2003

More opinions at:
Gossamer Obsessions
anyone else?

Jul 11, 2009

I Wish Someone Had Told Me

Comfort, Support and Advice for New Moms
by Nina Barrett

For the new mom or mom-to-be, this is a book full of eye-opening stories written by real-life mothers. Revealing all the unpleasant things that people usually don't talk about when anticipating a new baby- difficult and painful births, colicky infants that scream for hours on end, strains in the marriage relationship, etc. Nothing very rosy here. If you want to know just what you might be in for, it can be an interesting read, but I can't say I agree with the subtitle. It's not comforting, unless knowing you're not alone in your misery is comforting. And I didn't find much advice given in how to handle things; if I had, this book would have felt more worthwhile. I Wish Someone Had Told Me is like a dash of cold water to wake you up and realize: hey! new babies are not all sweet cuddles and smiles- it's tough to be a new mom, but we survived, so you can, too. That's the message I got. Well, it did make me laugh a few times, but I can't really give this book a wholehearted recommendation. (If they changed the subtitle to something like: Warnings, Alarms and Scares for New Moms, that would be more like it).

Rating:2/5                    238 pages, 1997

Jul 10, 2009


Adrift with William Willis in the Golden Age of Rafting
by T.R. Pearson

I thought this book looked interesting because it's about a man who followed close on the heels of the Kon-Tiki expedition. Twenty years after Heyerdahl's famous voyage, William Willis, a part-time sailor and aspiring author, decided to attempt his own ocean crossing on a raft. There were several stark differences in this trip, namely that Willis designed the raft himself (and not very well), went solo (unless you count the cat and parrot) and was sixty years old. He wasn't out to prove any points about navigation or history, but to seek an experience, to test himself against the elements in the most extreme way possible (rather like Into the Wild, I thought). He deliberately skimped on some planning and supplies, ate a very restricted diet (of mainly rye flour, raw sugar and fish) and was full of a ludicrously optimistic attitude, in spite of his journey being a series of disasters. It's a miracle he made it across alive. I kept thinking, this guy is asking for hardship: why? By the end of the book I was no closer to an explanation- he had a decidedly different outlook on life, and a nearly insane desire to continue doing ocean crossings on cheaply built, poorly designed rafts.

Seaworthy wasn't quite what I expected. In the first place, it's not- as both the back cover copy and flyleaf claim- just about Willis, but also spotlights several other men who made similar hairbrained attempts to raft across the ocean, with various degrees of success. One man went in a small rubber boat, seeking to create shipwreck conditions and prove what man could survive. Other trips were organized with more proper crews- four or five men- and better-built rafts, but with crazy ideas of what they were trying to prove, with poor supplies, with mutiny on board. Along the way they're all compared to the more successful and well-known Kon-Tiki. And then Willis himself made four more attempts, the last one when he was seventy-four! I could not believe the deprivation and suffering this man intentionally put himself through. He drank salt water. He fought off sharks. He had two hernias and went on voyages anyways, refusing medical treatment. There was no end of astonishments in this book for me.

Another one for the Non-Fiction Five challenge.

Rating: 3/5                280 pages, 2006

Jul 9, 2009

Meme: Unread

from Booking Through Thursday:

So here today I present to you an Unread Books Challenge. Give me the list or take a picture of all the books you have stacked on your bedside table, hidden under the bed or standing in your shelf – the books you have not read, but keep meaning to. The books that begin to weigh on your mind. The books that make you cover your ears in conversation and say, ‘No! Don’t give me another book to read! I can’t finish the ones I have!’

You must have read my mind, BTT. I really wasn't going to post again today, but I was already planning to take stock of the remaining piles after my challenge-progress evaluation earlier this morning. I rearranged all my books so that the unread ones are in, on or around my bedside shelf. It's overwhelming! The ones I'm planning on reading next, for various current and upcoming challenges, are stacked on top. I have 132 total unread books, and if you want to see what they all are, the list is on Library Thing. Hm, even though I feel I've read a lot of books since the last post, I don't feel like I've made much progress... somehow more books come in than go out...


It's time to take stock of my reading challenges- this is the first year I've participated in any, and I've really been enjoying it. I've been feeling a lot more motivated to read through my TBR piles (which means, sadly, less visits to the public library right now, but I know I'll be haunting stacks there again sooner or later).

Well, about five months ago I signed up for three challenges. I won't list all the titles here, because I'm going to do a wrap-up post when I finish each one, but here's a little note on my progress:

9 for '09 Challenge- I only have one book left to read for this- the long one. I gave up on Quicksilver, but am going to attempt to read America's Women (556 pages) and if I can't make it through that one, Irving Stone's The Origin (765 pages). The Stone book may look more daunting because it's longer- but it might be an easier read, being fiction.

Non-Fiction Five Challenge- I read four of my original picks, and gave up on one. That leaves me with one more book to choose, but I realized recently that I actually started too early- the challenge began in May but I read The Other End of the Leash in April. So maybe I'll pick two more. On my shelf I have Seaworthy, a book about another guy who tried to duplicate the Kon-Tiki adventure -only solo- across the ocean, and Splendid Solution, about the discovery of the polio vaccine. They both look really interesting.

2009 TBR Challenge- I've read eight off my original list, gave up on three and am slowly getting through Living to Tell the Tale right now. Not sure I'm going to finish that one; so I have some from my alternate list ready at hand: The Burn Journals, Dust Bowl Diary, And Then We Came to the End, Maggie-Now, The Horse's Mouth, Of Human Bondage...

And when those are all done, I think I'm going to sign up for the What An Animal II challenge, because you know me, I always love reading animal books!

Jul 8, 2009

Celebrating the Wild Mushroom

A Passionate Quest
by Sara Ann Friedman

This book is just what it says: a celebration of wild mushrooms. Its author describes in easy, flowing prose how she gradually became more and more fascinated with wild mushrooms- searching for them, collecting them, studying them and eating them. She describes various hunts for mushrooms in all different seasons, across the country, alone, in small groups of friends or in large organized forays. I never thought about mushroom-lovers having conventions, but they do! Friedman attends as an amateur and passionate mushroom hunter, rubbing shoulders with college professors who specialize in mushrooms, and eager students constantly asking "what's this one?" People who just want to paint mushrooms, or photograph them. People who are interested in wild mushrooms as culinary art, others who are fascinated by the puzzle of identifying them- there are thousands of species, and apparently no two books or field guides agree on their taxonomy or nomenclature. And of course, people who are interested in their hallucinogenic properties. Celebrating the Wild Mushroom explores all aspects of the fungi- how it has been alternately feared, loathed or practically worshiped in times past. The mysteries of its growth, the puzzles of its properties. Did you know that some mushrooms taste like chicken, or fruit? That some smell like chlorine, or burnt rubber, or fish? From the accounts of a few people who tried to subsist on mushrooms alone for a period of days, Friedman learned that mushrooms have little nutritional value- yet their flavors and textures can be delectable. Personally I like mushrooms, but I'm not crazy about them. Even though she gives a little mini field guide (with recipes) in the back of the book, I'd never be bold enough to try and eat a fungus picked off my neighbor's lawn, or dug from the leaves under a tree. But this book is so intriguing, because mushrooms are curious and fantastic things- not plant, not animal, but an entity all their own.

The only other place I've read about mushrooms before was in The Omnivore's Dilemma, but it only gets a small section there. I read this book as part of the TBR Challenge.

Rating: 4/5                 265 pages, 1986

wondrous words

for this week, my new words came from reading Living to Tell the Tale:

Rarefy- "He had a power of evocation so intense that each thing he recounted seemed to become visible in the room rarefied by heat."
Definition: to purify or refine

Tutelary- "The two tutelary almond trees that for years had been an unequivocal sign of identity had been cut down to the roots and the house left exposed to the elements."
Definition: one that serves as guardian or protector

Shirred- "Recent generations do not seem moved by that princess with the shirred skirts, little white boots, and a braid hanging down to her waist..."
Definition: cloth gathered into decorative rows by parallel stitches

Tertian- "She had spent an uncertain childhood plagued by tertian fevers..."
Definition: recurring every other day, or every third day

Parvenu- "The majority of adults, however, viewed Luisa Santiaga as the precious jewel of a rich and powerful family whom a parvenu telegraph operator was courting not for love but self-interest."
Definition: a person newly risen to a higher social position who is lacks the culture or education of that status

Obdurate- "... he expressed his heartfelt certainty that there was no human power capable of overcoming this obdurate love."
Definition: obstinate, hardhearted

and from Celebrating the Wild Mushroom:

Mycologist- "The squadron leader is Kent McKnight, a highly respected professional mycologist who works for the U.S. Department of Agriculture."
Definition: a botanist who specializes in the study of fungi

Umbonate, Fibrillose- "I knew immediately when a cap was striated or fibrillose, whether it was bell-shaped or umbonate."
U: having a knob or knob-like protuberance
F: covered evenly with small, threadlike fibers

Glabrous, Viscid- "Is it glabrous or viscid?"
G: smooth, having no hairs or projections
V: having a sticky or clammy coating

Amyloid- "They are all pale yellow- to brown-capped, are amyloid, and posses a ring and a bulbous base."
Definition: a starchlike substance

Balkanized- "Even within the genera, rules change from year to year, as old characteristics are reevaluated and new ones discovered; whole groups of mushrooms are balkanized while others are unified."
Definition: a territory or region divided into small, hostile states

Mycophogist- "For mycophagists, they are a pleasant dream, and it matters not at all what they are called."
Definition: a person (or animal) who eats fungi

Tomentose- "He goes outside and returns with his tennis racket covered with a magnificent array of chestnut-capped boletes in perfect condition, their pale pink pores firm, their thick, white, slightly tomentose stipes solid enough to walk on."
Definition: covered with short, dense matted hairs

Saprophyte- "There are still thousands of varieties out there doing their job, acting as saprophytes or trading nutrients with trees and shrubs."
Definition: a living organism that absorbs its nourishment from dead organic matter

Duxelle- "... with a little care you will have a full winter supply of ingredients for stews and ragouts, quiches, duxelles and omelettes."
Definition: a finely chopped mix of mushrooms, shallots, herbs and onions sauteed in wine

Duff- "As with so many other mushrooms, the first one is the hardest to spot, and more often than not a little digging among the pine duff will produce more..."
Definition: decaying leaves and branches on the forest floor

Find more wondrous words at the host of this meme, Bermudaonion's Weblog

Jul 7, 2009

bookmark giveaway!

Winner of the giraffe bookmark is: Lezlie from one of my favorite blogs, Books 'n Border Collies. Hey, Lezlie, email me your address and I'll mail you a giraffe!

Next giveaway is for this rooster bookmark, edged with a bold green ribbon. It's a bit smaller than the others, 2 x 6", not counting the tassel. If you'd like to enter to win, just leave your name in the comments! Contest closes next tuesday, 7/14.

Jul 6, 2009

Gentle Gorilla

The Story of Patty Cake
by Susan Green

I've read many books over the years on great apes- chimpanzees and gorillas- marveling at their social intelligence and abilities. This is the book that began it all, back one day as a teen browsing the public library. I'd never had much interest in gorillas before, and didn't know much about them. I saw this title and stopped short. I thought gentle? How could a gorilla be gentle? So I read the book. And read it again. Probably four times over the years. It's an interesting, thoughtful and touching story.

Gentle Gorilla began as an artist's journal. Susan Green visited the Central Park Zoo daily to sketch the animals, and one of her favorite places was in the Lion House, where the gorillas were. She was such a regular visitor the animals came to accept her, and the keepers permitted her to stay when other zoo-goers were denied admittance. Green was present when the female gorilla Lulu surprised everyone with the birth of a baby, named Patty Cake. She spent hours at the zoo watching the gorilla family- Lulu, Patty Cake and the father, Kongo- observing their interactions, feeling part of their joys and sorrows. This was back in the seventies, when the animals still lived in bare, concrete cages. One of the things that I liked most about the story was seeing how the animals would express their curiosity or find things to entertain themselves with, even in a rather barren environment. I remember one scene in particular where Lulu had a bunch of beets and instead of eating them, rubbed them against the floor to leave red marks... It's a lovely book, and if you haven't read anything about gorillas, I'd recommend this as a start.

Rating: 4/5 ........ 303 pages, 1978

Jul 5, 2009


by Donna Jo Napoli

This is Beauty and the Beast retold from the Beast's point of view. In Napoli's story, the Beast was originally a Muslim prince from Persia, who angered a fairy when he failed to make a ritual sacrifice properly. As punishment, he was turned into a lion, one of several recently brought from India so that his father the King could hunt and kill a lion the next day. The prince-turned-lion fled for his life, traveling through the wilds back to the lion's home in India, and then into France where he sought to lift the curse by making a woman fall in love with him. My favorite part of this book was the middle, which describes his efforts to live as a lion, fighting the bestial instincts of his new body, struggling to reconcile what he must do to survive- hunt and kill- with the tenants of his Islamic faith. The first part of the story, seeped in details of Persian culture (and full of unfamiliar words), just wasn't as interesting. And the final part of the book- when the Beast settled in France, built a rose garden, and wooed Beauty- felt too abrupt. I understand that the main focus of the story was how the prince overcame the lion's bestial nature to feel and act like a man again- and that when he had redeemed himself by gaining Beauty's love thus the story was over- but I didn't get any sense of a real relationship being formed between them, and wished there had been more depth about that part of the story. If you like original retellings of fairy tales, you should certainly read Beast, it's very different. Some of the parts about his life as a lion are rather brutal (not just killing, but also mating scenes of the lions are described), so it might not appeal to all readers.

Rating: 3/5                    272 pages, 2000

More opinions at:
One Librarian's Book Reviews
Working Title
My Bookshelf
Literate Concepts

Jul 3, 2009

The Edge of Day

by Laurie Lee

Another book I usually wouldn't mention, since I never got totally invested in reading it. But it was for the TBR Challenge, so I feel I ought to say something about it. I've actually had two different copies of The Edge of Day in my library- before we moved across the country I had an old trade paperback copy with a stiff cover. I dipped into it a few times, curious and intrigued by the descriptions from a toddler's perspective in the first few pages, walking through an overgrown garden that was like an infested jungle to him, full of buzzing insects and fears... I never read any more, and it got weeded out when I had to downsize my library for moving. Just a few months ago I found it again, at a discard sale- different binding and cover art, but instantly recognized it as a book I'd once owned and lost- so I couldn't help picking it up again. But these past few days my time spent reading it has been rather dull. The Edge of Day (also published under the title Cider with Rosie) is a quiet, musing kind of book. It describes the author's youth in a small English village, being tended by his many older sisters, going to a one-room schoolhouse... I've liked other books about boyhood experiences (Call It Sleep) or even rural schoolhouses (The Thread That Runs So True) but this one just wasn't grabbing my attention. So again, I'm moving on.

This book was in my list for the TBR Challenge. I've completed eight, given up on two, and have two more to read before I start picking through my alternate stack.

Abandoned                           276 pages, 1959


by Vince Papale

I feel like this book shouldn't even the mention of a post, because I didn't get very far in it- about twenty five pages, and I wasn't really interested for most of that time. It's a decent book, and fairly well-written, but the subject matter was boring me. I was curious to read about one man's experience playing football simply because my husband loves the sport- but Invincible doesn't have the individual perspective I'm looking for. It is about an individual, and his rise from a poor boy in the projects to a professional football player- but it was just not speaking to me. I felt like I was reading more about who he admired as a child, a litany of names and teams and plays, instead of what it felt like to play, or how he learned to play... Anyway, there's another football book on the shelf here that I might try soon- Paper Lion. I picked it up idly at a library sale, not really knowing what it was about, and when I brought it home my husband yelped in amazement- a noise I often make at surprise finds among book stacks, but Id never heard him utter before. He says this one is the best book ever about football, and it's not about some star player either, just an ordinary guy- but that it's very well written. I have high hopes again. For a football experience in the pages.

Invincible was the last book on my list to read for the Non-Fiction Five challenge, so now I have to pick out another title...

Abandoned                      212 pages, 2006

Jul 1, 2009

Lessons in Stalking

by Dena Harris

Anyone who's ever been owned by a cat will find this book laugh-out-loud hilarious. It's a collection of twenty short stories about the quirks of sharing your home with a feline. Their inscrutable behavior. Their demands, their charms. My favorite was the one about when her cats refused to let the bathroom door stay closed. And I could sympathize perfectly with the frustrations of a cat who deliberately wakes you before the alarm clock, or refuses to play with the expensive toys you buy but has a blast with some ordinary household item you drop on the floor. Lessons in Stalking is cute and funny, but I kept wishing the stories were longer, or a bit more detailed, or that there were more of them. If you enjoy reading tidbits of tales like those Chicken Soup books, or are any kind of cat person, this one's just right for you.

This book was sent to me by the author.

Rating: 3/5                     128 pages, 2005

wondrous words

New to me from Edward Abbey! These words are from my reading of Desert Solitaire:

Usufructary- "Within this vast perimeter... are the 33,000 acres of Arches National Monument of which I am now sole inhabitant, usufructary, observer and custodian."
Definition: one who holds the right to use or enjoy profits from something belonging to another, as long as it is not damaged or altered

Potable- "I dip my hands into the water and sample some. Pretty bad, neither potable nor palatable."
Definition: fit to drink

Pismire- "Neurotic little pismires."
Definition: an ant

Vinegaroon, Solpugid- "Watch out for rattlesnakes, coral snakes, whip snakes, vinegaroons, centipedes... kissing bugs, solpugids, tarantulas, horned toads, gila monsters, red ants, fire ants, jeruslaem crickets, chinch bugs and giant hairy desert scorpions before being seated."
V: the whip scorpion
S: a family of arachnids with large, powerful fangs and segmented abdomens

Tularemia- "...the flesh is probably infected with tularemia."
Definition: an infectious disease found in rodents, transferable to man

Mucilaginous- "He particularly enjoyed the mucilaginous green pods of the okra..."
Definition: moist and sticky

Spalled- "... slabs of sandstone shook free of their ancient fastenings, spalled from the cliffs and crashed with a sound like thunder into the heave and roar of the flood."
Definition: broken into chips or fragments

Syllogism- "To me death was little more than a fascinating abstraction, the conclusion to a syllogism or the denouement of a stage drama."
Definition: a form of deductive reasoning moving from the general to the specific

Basque- "Three of us, Roy, his Basque hired man Viviano Jacquez, and myself."
Definition: person from an area of the western Pyrenees in France and Spain

Strontium-"We think we have forgotten but we cannot forget- the knowledge is lodged like strontium in the marrow of our bones..."
Definition: soft, silvery metallic element used in making fireworks and signal flares

Chert- "... you may find chipping grounds scattered with hundreds of fragments of flint or chert where the Anasazi hunters worked their arrowpoints."
Definition: a hard, brittle sedimentary rock consisting of microcrystalline quartz

Pecuniary- "And whether good or bad in strictly pecuniary terms, industrial tourism exacts a spiritual price from those dependent upon it for their livelihood."
Definition: relating to money

Pellucid- "The desert storm is over and through the pure sweet pellucid air the cliff swallows and the nighthawks plunge and swerve..."
Definition: transparent or translucent, allowing light to pass through

Estivation- "This little animal lives through dry spells in a state of estivation under the dried-up sediment in the bottom of a hole."
Definition: an inactive state of dormancy through which some animals pass the heat of summer

Couloir- "The mountains are almost bare of snow except for patches within the couloirs on the northern slopes."
Definition: a deep mountainside gorge

Panegyric- "... he would write of the canyon as a whole in panegyric accent."
Definition: formal speech or writing that praises a person, or an event

Alluvium- "I find what looks like a deerpath leading up over an alluvium hill..."
Definition: sand, silt, clay, gravel, or other sediment deposited by flowing water

Sachem- "... we float on our backs in the still water, squat on the cool sand under the sheltering cottonwoods and smoke like sachems."
Definition: chief of a Native American tribe or confederation

Insouciant- "... back to the greater world of Glen Canyon and the steady, powerful, unhurried, insouciant Colorado."
Definition: carefree, unconcerned

Defenestration- "No man could have asked for a lovelier defenestration."
Definition: throwing something (particularly a person) out of a window

Febrile- "Deliberately I compose my mind, quiet the febrile buzzing of the cells and circuits..."
Definition: active and nervous, or feverish

Emunction- "... with their sanctified ritual for nasal emunction: only one nostril may be discharged at a time, etc."
Definition: removing an obstruction from a body passage

these words from The Journey Home:

Scoriation- "The bright enamel finish was scarred and scoriated, dulled by a film of dust."
Definition: a loosely cut groove or furrow characterized by the presence of material from what cut it

Camber- "The car clanked forward on an oblique axis, crabwise, humping up and down on the eccentric camber of the flat."
Definition: a slightly arched surface

Panicle- "The bear grass, with its showy panicle of flowers on a two- or three-foot stalk, is the most striking flower in the Glacier."
Definition: a loosely branched cluster of flowers

Ersatz- "And what a terrible price most of us have to pay for... the luxuriously packaged ersatz food in the supermarkets..."
Definition: an artificial imitation or substitute

I also came across azimuth again, which I remember finding in Quicksilver. I recognized it right away, glad that it stuck! It was used here thus: "When the lookout spots a fire, he aims this device at the center of the smoke... and obtains an azimuth reading from the fixed base of the fire finder."

Visit Bermudaonion's Weblog for more wondrous words.